LSU-Alabama game's status up in the air because of COVID-19 outbreak with Tigers

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — There is a chance that struggling LSU could get more extra time to prepare for No. 1 and rolling Alabama.

The Tigers have multiple players with COVID-19 and multiple players in COVID-19 quarantine, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said on a teleconference Monday afternoon. 

LSU (2-3), which is coming off an embarrassing 48-11 loss at Auburn on Oct. 31, is scheduled to host the Crimson Tide (6-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday on CBS in Tiger Stadium. The Tigers are 24-point underdogs for Saturday by BetMGM.

LSU was off over the weekend, as was Alabama.

"I think that by Wednesday that should be solidified," Orgeron said of the status of the game. "But for right now, we're playing Alabama. We're ready to go. We're focused on playing Alabama Saturday. I'm going to let the doctors take care of all of that. I can't tell you the numbers. I can tell you that we do have players that have COVID, and we do have some players that are quarantined."

How many players LSU could be missing at particular positions on Saturday will weigh in the Southeastern Conference office's decision to keep the game as scheduled or move it.

LSU, though, has no available Saturday dates as its game against Florida scheduled for Oct. 17 was moved to the COVID-19 designated makeup date of Dec. 12 as the Gators went through a COVID-19 outbreak last month. 

LSU and Alabama conceivably could play on Monday, Nov. 16. The Tigers' game against Tennessee in 2005 was moved from a Saturday to the next Monday night because of the approach of Hurricane Rita. And LSU and Tennessee both played the following Saturday with the Tigers winning at Mississippi State, 37-7, and the Volunteers winning at home over Ole Miss, 27-10, both in day games.

"Monday has not been discussed as an option for making up games," SEC associate commissioner for communications Herb Vincent told the USA TODAY Network on Monday. But he did not rule it out.

The Tigers' remaining schedule has them at Arkansas on Nov. 21, at Texas A&M on Nov. 28, at home against Ole Miss on Dec. 5 and at Florida on Dec. 12. The SEC Championship Game is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Atlanta.

The SEC on Monday afternoon postponed the Auburn-Mississippi State game scheduled for Saturday in Starkville, Miss., because of positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent quarantines within Mississippi State's football program. That game has been rescheduled for Dec. 12 as it was available for both teams.

"All other games are still scheduled to be played at this time," Vincent said. "We receive updates from our schools throughout the week as test results are reported."

All SEC schools test three times a week, usually on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

"I can't go into detail," Orgeron said. "It's a very fluid situation."

Orgeron said that junior starting quarterback Myles Brennan will not play Saturday if there is a game, but that is because of his abdomen tear injury suffered at Missouri on Oct. 10. He has missed both of LSU's games since sustaining the injury. Orgeron said LSU's medical staff is considering having Brennan sit out the rest of the season to heal the injury or possibly have surgery.

True freshman TJ Finley has started twice in Brennan's absence, but he did not play well at Auburn. And Orgeron said last week that Finley and fellow true freshman Max Johnson will compete for the starting job against Alabama. That is, provided both stay away from COVID-19 and its quarantines.

LSU has no other scholarship quarterbacks, and there are multiple reports that Johnson either has or had COVID-19 and that LSU is short on tight ends and deep snappers. Wide receivers and running backs can be converted to tight end, though, and other offensive linemen can be converted to deep snappers.

It's that kind of year.

The SEC's rules concerning COVID-19 postponements state that member schools must have at least 53 scholarship players available, including one quarterback, four defensive linemen, four defensive backs and seven offensive linemen with a center, to play. But if a school does not meet those requirements, it can still opt to play. A team can also ask for a game to be postponed for "compelling reasons."

All postponements or cancellations are the final decision of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.